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Are You Really More Emotionally Intelligent Than Your Partner?

Demanding intimacy may not be the path to connection.

Key Points

  • In most relationships, one partner sees themselves as being more emotionally mature or intelligent than their partner.

  • The other partner is usually cast as being less aware, less emotional, less mature, or less committed to being intimate.

  • Viewed systemically both partners are actually unwittingly colluding in a constraining dynamic.

  • By taking ownership and balancing the playing field both partners can take steps to become more vulnerable together, in a more equitable way.

This occurs all the time in my Sessions: Couples majority of time come in with one partner complaining that there's no intimacy or love in their relationship because of their partner.

The Intimacy Queen

This partner (often the female in a hetrosexual relationship) is dying for more intimacy but hasn't been getting it for years. In their mind, their partner is the sole reason she/he doesn't have that intimacy that they crave and deserve. Him/her share that they have very deep relationships with friends and family, just not with HIM/HER. I kindly call this partner "the intimacy queen or king. This individual usually considers themselves as the martyr who is tired of trying to open up their mute partner. Being the emotional martyr has several gains, such as a sense of emotional superiority, while blocking the need to confront themselves on their own intimacy problems. It is the Intimacy queen who is usually the force that drives the couple to therapy, or enters therapy for themselves.

The Emotionally Disabled Partner

This particular partner usually sits more silent (typically the male in hetrosexual relationship) who is cynical and states that whenever he/she say or do it is not good enough in the eyes of their partner. Taking on such a role absolves him/her of the need to be emotionally present or vulnerable, and there are few expectations of him. Their biggest tax for this role is that they are not respected, seen, or desired. They must therefore blind themselves to the contempt and disappointment of his/her partner, and resort to cynicism and relational amnesia.

Why does This Happen?

This dynamic is a result of what I call "psychological patriarchy," which is damaging to both men and women: Boys must endure the "loss of the relational," leaving them emotionally illiterate and unable to recognize their emotions. Women similarly pay a price of being ostracized from expressing assertiveness and aggression, often leaving them to be labeled as victims or martyrs.

These processes create a stark dichotomous, hierarchical dance, where one partner is cast as emotionally intelligent, deep, sensitive,(and pious), while the other is labeled as emotionally impaired, cold, simple, and two-dimensional. The resulting dynamic generates bitterness, contempt, and competition between the partners (and is also a bad relationship model for their children).

Additionally, their dance often leads to a symbiotic-hostile dynamic of pursuer (intimacy queen) and distancer (emotionally disabled): The more him/her want more intimacy, the more the other partner run away.

How Do You Change This Song And Dance?

Well, If your the Intimacy Queen......

  • Admit it: admit that you, too are scared of intimacy. Confront yourself and confess to your partner the places and ways you also dampen the heat in the relationship. this will help your partner feel less blame for the current dynamic.

  • Nag Less, do more: Avoid labeling your partner as cold or immature. Dare to be more open and vulnerable regarding your needs.

  • Compliment your partner's (semi-successful attempts at intimacy): It is your interest that they change, so focus on the success instead of the unwanted behavior.

If Your The Emotionally Disabled Partner......

  • Dare to feel: develop emotional awareness and literacy and then verbalize your feelings.

  • Risk being vulnerable: By sharing a wider range of feelings, not just about your partner, you'll slowly move out of the role of being emotionally challenged.

  • Dare to want: Brave to share your wants and desires, and show your partner you aren't really happy with the current homeostasis.

This process will take time, but I've seen countless couples do it. A new egalitarian dynamic will develop. After all, you two are more similar than you previously thought. So use the Tips I suggested and leave your thoughts and comments and let me know how its going.

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